Practicing singing is as much about FEELING as it is about music. What if today's practice goal isn't to master tricky melodies or sing higher notes? What if it's to understand how it FEELS to sing? Noticing and understanding what you are doing is crucial in being able to control your voice. Don't simply seek to stay on pitch in your exercises and songs. Start to bring awareness to physical sensations that don't feel right. Can you find a way to eliminate those sensations? You'll surprise yourself that you can! Or, are there certain sensations that feel particularly good. Can you find a way to do them more often? You'll also be pleasantly surprised. Singing is more than just music. It's YOU. So, don't just practice music. Practice FEELING.
Is your SMILE holding you back as an artist? Often we are taught from an early age to "Smile!". Smile when you meet someone new. Smile when you're feeling blue. Smile when you're onstage. Obviously, there are few things in life as wonderful and attractive as a Smile. The problem is, many actors and performers end up with a kind of "permagrin" Smiling habit. They Smile in songs and scenes even when it's not appropriate to do so. This ends up backfiring and causes performances to not be real and truthful. Plus, it is generally quite poor vocal technique as well. Often over-Smiling is such a habit that singers don't even know they are doing it. Make sure that you can sing and act from a starting place of neutrality. Lose the fake Smile. Keep the true JOY!
We typically consider how ACOUSTICS relate to our singing voices. But, it's less common to consider how Acoustics affect our SPEAKING voices in our everyday lives. Most of us speak much more than we sing each day. Our singing voices are trained to be heard properly in different spaces, but we must also train for our non-singing spaces! Whether talking at home, in an office, in a classroom, in a restaurant, or in a conference room - it's important that we use our voices properly. A big factor in being heard is the Acoustics of these common spaces. Does your voice get tired because you aren't using your voice properly for the room you're in? If so, then make sure you adjust your resonance, breath, and volume based on your environment. Start noticing the way your voice needs to change from place to place. Let your workspace to work FOR you!
Inspiration can come from many different places. So often as singers, we look to other singers for such inspiration. And rightly so! However, there are many other avenues we can explore to further our vocal, musical, and artistic growth. To start, we can listen to INSTRUMENTAL music. By listening to the greatest musicians we learn phrasing, dynamics, and other stylistic and expressive tools. Another avenue to explore is VISUAL art. By viewing drawings, paintings, and sculptures from the greatest artists, we learn continuity, focus, and attention to detail. Or, why not read or see a DRAMATIC work? There's a lot to learn about storytelling, truthful communication, and emotion. Whether it be instrumental, visual, acting, writing, dance or any other artform - improve your vocal artistry by learning about great art of ALL kinds!
Overwhelmed by a song that's difficult to learn? Don't get frustrated. Break it down! Here's a 7-Step Guide! 1. Learn the melody and rhythms on a neutral word like MAY or MUM. 2. Read the lyrics aloud and look up any words you don't know or can't pronounce. 3. Try the melody with the words. 4. Sing the song once again, but this time only think about where and how you are breathing. 5. Find the technically tricky spots of the song and isolate them. 6. Sing through the song with all of the above skills intact. 7. Start to add in acting and performance choices. If you follow these 7 Steps, it's likely that you'll soon become friends with that very difficult song. Don't get frustrated. Break it down!
"Get TALLER as you exhale!" This is a classic Vocal Tip given to singers to improve posture, breathing, and technique. But what does it mean? Well, when we exhale to sing, there is a tendency to let the air escape too fast and too aggressively. We tend to squeeze the upper abdominals and thrust the chest downwards. These habits lead to pitch problems, register imbalances, lack of stamina, and even vocal strain. Luckily, it can all be fixed by getting TALLER! As you sing a phrase (particularly a long phrase), imagine your sternum, the back of your neck, and the crown of your head all growing taller and taller. You'll notice an immediate difference to your vocal freedom, control, and stamina. In short, good singing can be as easy as getting TALL!
Have you ever sang from your THIRD EYE? The "Third Eye" is located in the middle of the forehead, slightly above the eyebrows. For thousands of years - awareness of this spot has been a way to DEEPEN our consciousness, CONNECT to our souls, and FOCUS our minds. Singers have also long noticed a connection to this place. Higher notes are often felt in the Third Eye because the need for Head and Nasal resonance increases. When you observe elite singers in action, you will often notice that there is intense energy and focus between the eyebrows - even without lifting or tensing them. So, start seeing through new eyes and singing from new places! Guiding your sound toward your Third Eye will help add FOCUS to your voice, your mind, and your soul!
All singers know that Breathing technique during singing is of the utmost importance. But what about Breathing technique while NOT singing? A common habit many of us have is to hold our breath unintentionally. This happens when the vocal folds shut and prevent air from moving in and out of the trachea and lungs. Many people don't even notice that they are doing this! It's wise to stay away from this habit due to its potential for unwanted vocal tension and also a stressful mental state. The best way to stay relaxed, both physically and mentally, is to allow our air to flow freely. Pay attention to yourself throughout the day when you are not making sounds and make sure that you are breathing freely and easily! In a way, it's like practicing your singing ALL DAY!
These days Opera isn't as popular as it once was, but it certainly ain't over! While it's a myth that classical training will make you skillful at singing other styles of music, don't neglect at least SOME classical work in your technique practice. What does this mean? Learn to sing with lower larynx positions. Know how to sing every note with vibrato. Cultivate your Head Voice. Build the stamina for long legato phrases. Master your breath support and dynamic control. Experience how your voice can sing on pure vowels. Adding all of these elements to your technique practice will make you a better singer overall. You might even try out an Aria or Art Song for extra enrichment. Or, if you're really inspired you might even buy a ticket to go and see an Opera! Chances are it will really expand your horizons. The fat lady definitely AIN'T singing!
The Larynx is an extraordinary structure capable of making nearly an infinite amount of sounds! Yet sometimes we find it necessary to use other parts of our body to make sound instead of letting the Larynx do it's job. We force too much air out, we tense our neck muscles, we raise our shoulders, we jut our jaws, we raise our eyebrows…the list goes on! Allow your Larynx to do the work it was meant to do! Take note of your body as you sing. Are you recruiting extraneous muscles to do the job of the Larynx? During your next practice, try your exercises or songs using as little movement of extraneous muscles as you can. Once the Larynx proves it can do all the work it was designed to do, then stylistic elements can be added. But, as for your vocal technique, you'll have found right one for the job!
Our voices change VOLUME in more ways than we realize! Factors that typically influence Volume include breath flow, vocal fold compression, larynx position, resonance, and mouth shape. For example, open vowels like AH or OH are typically louder than smaller vowels like EE or OO. This is one reason why singers who use microphones pull the mic away from their faces on big notes or pull it close when they're singing softly. Sound engineers limit this variation on recordings. That's why you can listen to recorded songs without having to change the Volume on your speakers every time the singer hits a big note or gets quiet. Nevertheless, before you hit the studio or the stage - experiment with the many factors that help you control your own VOLUME!
Have you ever seen singers move their JAW when they sing Riffs? Interestingly, this can be both a bad thing OR a good thing. It just depends on the circumstances. For most singing, jaw movement that corresponds with pitch movement is a very bad habit. This can happen during vibrato, during Riffs, or just when moving from note to note. Very GOOD vocal technique happens when the vocals folds are solely responsible for pitch adjustments. So, the first step to Riffs and vocal agility is to move the notes WITHOUT moving the jaw. On the other hand, more advanced Riffers sometimes use their jaws for a stylistic rearticulation of Riff notes. This is a sort of vocal "sound effect" that adds an extra accent detail to complex Riffs. Rule of thumb: don't use your jaw to Riff. (But, there may come a day when it's okay)!
Your voice has many registers that can be DRAGGED to change the quality of your sound. For instance, you can drag a register DOWN from above to create a "headier" Mix or UP from below to create a "beltier" Mix. Both are necessary skills. BUT being able to honor every register in your voice is just as important. Think of it this way - there is an overlap of notes that are playable by both a violin and a cello. A cello can play quite high, but this puts the strings under more stress than is sustainable for a long time. Likewise, a violin can play some low notes that align with those of a cello, but the quality is far less rich than the cello. Honoring each register would be the equivalent of playing each instrument in the sweet spot of its range. So, don't always play your cello too high or your violin too low. As you vocalize, spend the majority of time in the sweet spot!
Do you know how your body achieves RELAXATION? It's through a slow, steady exhalation! Think about someone who is experiencing a panic attack. Do they need to take a deep breath? No! They actually have TOO MUCH air in their lungs. What they need to do is to exhale their breath slowly and steadily. This goes for any time we need to relax. All we need to do is take a moment to release our air in a gentle stream. So, perhaps now you understand why singing has so many health benefits and makes you feel so great! It's because all good singing is done on a slow, steady exhale! Singing makes you RELAX better… and relaxing makes you SING better! Aaaaah...
Want to expand your Repertoire AND your vocal abilities? Then, give yourself a Repertoire CHALLENGE! Make a list of Five different STYLES. Find one song per style and learn those songs to the best of your ability. Next, make a list of Five ARTISTS within your favorite style. Find and learn a song by each artist. After this, make a list of Five SONGS that you've always wanted to sing, but never have. Lastly, make a list of Five songs that you've always been too AFRAID to try. By following this simple Repertoire Challenge you will reinvent your Repertoire. In the process, you will grow so much vocally and stylistically and will be pleased to see how something as simple as song selection can make you a better artist! HIGH FIVE!
MENTHOL. Who doesn't love it? It offers a cooling sensation, it has an invigorating feel, and it smells good! We've all been there... we have a cold and start coughing. So, we grab a cough drop with menthol, rub a menthol cream on the chest at night, or even use steamers with menthol steam. But, what many people don't know is that menthol can have adverse effects for you as a singer! Although the cooling sensation of menthol can feel good, it also has a NUMBING effect and DRYING effect on our vocal folds. These two things certainly don't bode well for our singing. When we're feeling sick we want to be very much AWARE of how our throat and vocal folds are feeling, not the opposite! So, you're looking for throat lozenges be sure to look for drops with honey. Drop the menthol and reach for the HONEY!
Do you have a hard time achieving VIBRATO? If so, you are not alone. While some singers discover their Vibrato naturally, many others need time and practice to develop it. The BEST way to learn Vibrato is to UNDERSTAND it. Vibrato is a small pitch oscillation that can be created with the right Vocal Agility, Breath Support, and Resonance. The next time you practice, you might want to try some agility patterns, pitch bends, and quick staccato exercises. All of these things promote the kind of agility that is necessary for developing Vibrato. It may not come immediately, but understanding that you CAN and SHOULD work on your Vibrato will help you to discover it before too long!